What shall I do?

I am considering, once again, for real this time, retiring this blog.  It’s been an interesting seven-and-half-year run, but my need to vent my spleen on a regular basis has diminished.  Perhaps a new incarnation? Dunno. I really think I’d just rather be taking photographs.

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Diane Ravitch’s blog: Should Public Schools Depend on Charity?

Should Public Schools Depend on Charity?.

This commenter’s post struck a chord with me.

Call me a socialist, but I am totally against any & all fundraising for public schools. We as a nation should provide all our children equally with the highest possible standards we as a nation can afford. Private schools can do their own thing, whatever they can afford. (though it is my understanding that private schools pay teachers less than public schools). I don’t support or contribute in any way to fund raisers for either private or public schools. It sickens me that our children are sent out selling candy & holiday wrapping paper & cans of popcorn to raise money for special programs like art, gym, music in their schools, and that teachers have to help fund raise as well. I want to see education as the highest priority in this nation, and all public schools on equal footing, at least within each state. My higher preference is for the nation to equalize public schooling, so that every public school, no matter where they are located or the average income of their districts or the value of the homes in their districts, provides the same education to all students. Of course we have to retain the freedom for private schools, but privatizing education is a whole different matter. And when non-profit foundations start supporting education, it takes away from the responsibility of the citizenry to do so, and distorts and hides what is really happening to to public education.

Fundraising might work in districts where parents are well-off, hold jobs where these parents can take their child’s brochure to work, etc, but what about those places where kids may not even get breakfast at home? Where family and friends are doing all they can just to scrape by?

Honestly though, if parents were really serious about raising cash for their schools, they’d just write a check to the school rather that go through the charade of selling wrapping paper and over-priced cookies….the cut for the school is pathetic. The ROI sucks.

Further, if you choose to send your child to a private school I assume that means you can afford it. Do not ask me to donate to your child’s private school fundraiser. I already support public education with my tax dollars.

This also means that I don’t want to support your child’s private education with vouchers funded by my tax dollars.   If you don’t think our public schools are good enough for your child and you choose to put your child in private school, don’t go begging  your friends,  family and coworkers to help pay for your child’s private education, and then, when all else fails, insist it is your right to steal my tax dollars to pay your for your kid’s private tuition.  Especially if it means less dollars for public education. But even if it didn’t; even if public education didn’t lose a dime,  private schools do not have to be accountable to taxpayers in the way that public schools must be.

Don’t ask again.

A Meaningful Day

Cross-posted from The Neophyte Photographer

I spent several hours today (12/23) in downtown Reno at the 12th Annual Reno Firefighter’s Christmas Party for homeless and underprivileged kids.   It was my honor to serve as the Santa photographer.

Santa and Mrs. Claus (Rick & Laura Griffin)

We provided the kids with prints to take with them as a memento of the day.  Obviously I cannot post any of the photos with the kids, but here’s one of us with Santa that I shot later in the day.  The firefighter is in my Freethinkers group and asked some of us to volunteer. The two young woman took care of the printing, and I did the shooting. We worked out a system where I did about ten kids, pulled my card to give to them to download and print. In the meantime I’d do another ten on another card. They were able to keep up with the volume and we never had any long lines of people waiting for their prints.

Our Humanity

I was asked to represent Reno Freethinkers at an interfaith service this evening at the University of Nevada to honor the victims, families and first responders in Newtown, Connecticut. Many faiths were represented tonight (Catholic, Christian (fundamentalist evangelical, mainstream Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu and Baha’i), and me, the non-believer. I appreciated the opportunity. Certainly among the grieving are people like me. It was a moving night, particularly the prayer of mourning sung by the Baha’i celebrant. I didn’t understand the words, but the emotion came right through.

My prepared remarks:

I don’t know who wrote this, but I’d like to share it with you today.

I have seen a mother at a cot – so I know what love is;
I have looked into the eyes of a child – so I know what faith is;
I have seen a rainbow – so I know what beauty is;
I have felt the pounding of the seas – so I know what power is;
I have planted a tree – so I know what hope is;
I have heard a wild bird sing – so I know what freedom is;
I have seen a chrysalis burst into life – so I know what mystery is;
I have lost a friend – so I know what sorrow is;
I have seen a star-decked sky – so I know what infinity is;
I have seen and felt all these things – so I know what life is.

Today we come together in our humanity. Whether we are Believers, Agnostics, or Atheists, we stand here in our humanness and grief. We are drawn together by the need to be close to each other, to collectively honor those no longer with us, and to hold in our hearts those whose hearts and lives have been shattered in a million pieces. We come together today to comfort each other as well.

Centuries ago the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote:

“In the presence of death, we must continue to sing the song of life. We must be able to accept death and go from its presence better able to bear our burdens and to lighten the load of others. Out of our sorrows should come understanding. Through our sorrows, we join with all of those before who have had to suffer and all of those who will yet have to do so. Let us not be gripped by the fear of death. If another day be added to our lives, let us joyfully receive it, but let us not anxiously depend on our tomorrows. Though we grieve the deaths of our loved ones, we accept them and hold on to our memories as precious gifts. Let us make the best of our loved ones while they are with us, and let us not bury our love with death.”

What happened in Newtown is unimaginable, and yet it is real. It happened. As a parent, I cannot imagine it. For those of us with no belief in a comforting god or an afterlife, death does indeed have a sting. For we do not believe we shall see our loved one again; we do not think they have gone to a better place. They are asleep, never to awaken. They have been taken from us.

All we can do is miss them. And remember them. They live on as long as they live in our hearts. All we can do is gather close and love those of us who remain.

This is the bargain we make. We put our hearts out there in love and friendship because the reward is love and friendship in return. And sometimes, because that is just the way life is, our hearts will be broken in ways we will never understand.

I’d like to close with another poem:

When I die, give what is left of me to children.
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers walking beside you.
Put your arms around anyone, and give them what you need to give me.
I want to leave you with something, something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known and loved.
And if you cannot live without me, then let me live on in your eyes, your mind and your acts of kindness.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands and letting go of children that need to be free.
Love does not die, people do.
So when all that is left of me is love…..
Give me away…..

Reprise: Go Ahead, Raise our Taxes

Let’s just do it.  Let’s just go over the fiscal cliff slope.  

The Bush tax cuts were designed to expire in ten years. For everyone. We’ve gone two years beyond that expiration date and it has cost the country dearly.

Before anyone starts talking about cutting Social Security, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or closing loopholes or what-have-you, let’s just push the re-set button. Let all the Bush tax cuts expire. End the Payroll Tax “holiday.”  All of it. 

I posted this back in November of 2010. It is timely and bears repeating:

We’re willing to bite the bullet along with the fat cats. Seriously.

I looked at our joint tax return from last year and going back to 2001 rates would mean paying an extra $102.63 in taxes between the two of us every two weeks. Basically $50 a week. At least as best as I can figure. That appears to be the maximum we would owe.

That’s the sacrifice we are willing to make.

Sweetie and I are fortunate. When it comes to household income, we land in that upper bar. Barely. But if Sweetie were to lose his job, we’d immediately plunge down to the bar second from the bottom.

We know how to live with less, but we can’t live with nothing and we have never felt so job insecure in our lives. If either one of us were to  lose our job today, there is nothing comparable in terms of income out there for us. It’s a fact.

We’ve had ten years of Bush’s tax cuts and really, what has it gotten for the vast majority of us? Stagnant wages and job losses.  Worries that Social Security is on the chopping block. Less social safety nets. Less police and fire, less education for our kids, pot-holed roads.

If tax cuts create jobs, then why have we lost millions upon millions of them? If tax cuts generate tax revenue, then why are states and local municipalities slashing their budgets to the bone, laying off employees, requiring wage cuts, freezes, furlough days, cutting vital services, and on and on?

We can live without that extra $50.00  every week.

You guys have had your chance.